Everyone who met Nick Wieme loved him, said Matt Higbee, the aspiring comedian's coach at Lake View's iO Chicago Theater.
Wieme's iO family is reeling tonight after he fell 22 feet down a smokestack while taking pictures from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue early Thursday morning, according to the Chicago Tribune.
After hours of an intense “confined space rescue” with about 125 firefighters and paramedics, Wieme, 23, was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Tribune reported. He was pronounced dead around 5:05 a.m. Thursday.
As a student at the improv comedy theater for more than a year, and then a member of the team “Villain” for eight months, Higbee says Wieme quickly became a beloved presence.
“I learned about the accident this morning,” Higbee said quietly. “The entire Villain team has been notified. We gathered today to kind of support each other, and to remember the energy that Nick brought to our lives. … He treated the friends in his improv team like his family.”
“He was a great friend, and his energy will be missed, but it will live on in the people that he touched."
But although Wieme was a “gifted storyteller,” both on stage at the iO Theater and behind the camera making short films, Higbee says there was just one thing more important to him in life.
“I think the biggest thing to know about Nick is the only thing more important than his art was his family,” Higbee said. “He had a brother who he was really close with, and—he was just really close with his family. I know he dearly loved them.”
As for his second family, the improv team at the theater, Higbee says they’re not sure where to go from here. Outside of trying to maintain the same energy Wieme brought to the stage, the future is still unclear at this point.
“Right now the team is kind of in a state of shock,” Higbee said. “This is a pretty big tragedy to lose a friend like him. We have a show scheduled for Monday at 10:30, but I hate to give any inclination as to whether that show will happen. We’re just trying to process the last 24 hours.
“The biggest thing right now is Nick,” he continued. “He loved making people laugh and making people smile. He was a great friend, and his energy will be missed, but it will live on in the people that he touched."